I watch her walk through a maze of Golden Gate Transport buses at the San Rafael hub until she disappears from sight. To anyone else, the chore of boarding the right bus would barely register as a big event, but my 19 year-old daughter’s inaugural solo trip to the city made me smile and cry all at once. Not unlike the day I watched this little cherub climb aboard the monstrous yellow school bus on the first day of kindergarten. There have been many obstacles on her journey yet this sweet, freckle-faced girl/woman wears resiliency and buoyancy like a custom tailored dress. However, these two years since her graduation from high school have been marked by self-doubt, fear and uncertainty about how and when to enter the next crosswalk of life. So I rejoice as I pull away from the station – leaving her to begin her first day of college orientation – to read her text message: “I’m on the right bus!”
For some of us, it’s harder to know if we’re on the “right bus.” Whether it’s a decision to leave a job or embark on a new career, begin or end a relationship, start a family or move across the country or world, the path to clear knowing is often full of choices – and traffic in both directions. Below are a few tools that may be helpful in navigating through the traffic.
The cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien notes that the heart doesn’t analyze but rather provides a clear “yes”, a clear “no” and a clear “I don’t know.” Often, the not knowing simply means we lack enough information at this time. The time to take action is at the point of clarity. You may be asking, how do I arrive at this heart point of clarity? Dr. Arrien suggests that one way to cultivate clear knowing is to track what has heart and meaning for you by answering three questions:
1) Who or what inspires you?
2) Where do you experience a sense of comfort, peace and satisfaction?
3) What made you happy today?
Marion Rosen, author of the Rosen Method Bodywork: Accessing the Unconscious Through Touch, offers an invitation to knowing through body and breath awareness. “The body does not lie,” she states, noting that we use our musculature to armor ourselves based on emotional pain we’ve experienced in the past. It is possible to track what you know by scanning the body for what you feel. For example, tightness or a gagging reflex in the throat may be linked to inability to speak your truth; pain in the low back may stem from fear of being able to support yourself; and tightness between the shoulder blades might suggest your life is being restricted somehow as you long to experience freedom. “I feel it in my fingers….I feel it in my toes,” goes the lyric from the song by the Troggs, “Love is All Around.” The body becomes an emotional roadmap of sorts, which can inform and guide us in times of uncertainty.
Another way to strengthen your knowing “muscle” is to begin expanding your seven channels of experience: auditory, visual, emotional, sensation, imaginal, energetic and movement. This practice is at the heart of Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP); it is an opportunity to increase the field of awareness and clarity of knowing through each of these seven portals.
Finally, despite our best efforts, there are still times when clear knowing remains elusive and the most we can do is hold mystery with reverence and compassion, as offered in this passage from the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke:
I beg you…to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.